tile up, ugly away! How to tile a bathroom

tile up, ugly away! How to tile a bathroom

This project has been a whirlwind of work, today I am finishing up a dream of mine! Adding the forever classic and beautiful subway tile. I adore the timeless look to them, but am updating it slightly with a darker grout. This post is all about tile up, ugly away! How to tile a bathroom. I myself poured over tutorials online to know how to tile like a pro, so I wanted to share the tipe I learned and the big mistake I made, so you won;t do it!
diy bathroom tile with detailed instructions
I am giving little pieces of this bathroom reveal, one post at a time. Today it is the tile. I chose a white subway tile with dark gray grout, and a strip of varied colored gray, white, and marble to run along the bottom. I spoke briefly on why the tile was needed. Partly because I really like the look, and partly because we wanted to change the light to sconces. Which left a big hole in the center of the wall. I gave a detailed tutorial of installing the wall sconces, it can be seen here. I began this bathroom redo as a spur of the moment, Saturday night add some paint kind of project. It turned into a little more. Just a little.
white subway tile
Supplies need for this project
*Sponge float (large sponge)
*grout, you can get pre mixed or the kind you mix with water
*tile trowel (the silver handled thing to the left in the picture)
*tile mastic (tile glue), already mixed
*2 square grid tile
(the picture of supplies is from our kitchen redo. We used the premixed grout this time)
back splash tile supplies
To turn this ballooning bathroom redo into one worth the time and effort. Dale convinced me to just go all out, the way I wanted. I have always loved subway tile. We have it in our kitchen. But with a white grout. I wanted to bring a different feel to it, so purchased dark gray grout instead. I think this is a fun, different, and a little more of a statement. I am feeling more confident in my decisions with my home, and decided to go for it. Create my dream!


I know, this is a tutorial and I show you a way of doing it with a bunch of tiles already on the wall. It was the middle of the night, things got fuzzy and desperate. I forgot about the whole blog and pictures aspect of it. But, we can pick it up from here. Using the trowel dip a large amount of mastic (tile glue) on the trowel.
adding tile to bathroom tutorial


Spread it on the wall in the area you are going to put tile. Using the notched side, to make it easier to spread it out on the wall. Evenly distribute and smooth it out. We only did a few rows at a time to make sure it did not dry before we put the tile on. Laying enough to fully cover the wall with none of the drywall peeking through. No need to do it really thick though.
Then lay the tile on it by pressing down for a few seconds. Spacers can be used if you want more of the grout to show. But not necessary with subway tiles. For the detailing tile, it came on a grid with netting on the back. We only purchased two 12 inch by 12 inch squares. The plan was to have them interlock. It did not work the best for us. So we cut each tile out of the grid square and set it on the wall. Using the tile glue the same as we did with the subway tile. We laid the individual tile to staggered and uneven, similar to the subway tile. The small tiles was set with 5 rows. We had to cut a few pieces on the sides to make them all fit. How did we do that you ask?
This is what we used to cut all the tile. This is a tile snap cutter. Really simple to use. For the kitchen redo we used a wet saw borrowed from a friend. This time we used this. Less mess, but can only make simple cuts. Also really small cuts, of just cutting a sliver off the side is close to impossible.
For us we got really lucky, extremely lucky! The length of the wall worked out to be exactly 8 tiles across. So to make them appear staggered we simply had to cut every other row with one tile in half. Putting the half pieces on the ends of each side, every other row. To cut in half with the tile cutter. Place the tile above the divet in the bottom of the cutter. Then  run the handle from one side to the other pushing down on the tile.
Once the light line is made, and it is where you want it. Push the handle down exactly in the middle of the tile. The design of this if for the weight on either side of the tile being pushed and cut in half by force.
This is the two halves cut. This was my job. I was actually better at this then Dale, and I never shoved it in his face. Ever. Well maybe a little. I got this!
It went really fast, easy and smooth. We were whizzing along and then got to the very top, last row. The way our ceiling was a whole size tile would not fit. So I had to break out my mad tile cutting skills. Putting a tile up on the spot, marking where the ceiling meets and then cutting it along that line. The row is about 2 inches high. There were a few that did not split right. But I got it done. Then we came to the last tile, THE LAST TILE! And our ceiling goes down here. Go figure, our ceiling slopes slightly down at the very end on this one side.
This is what happened. Lots of failed attempts, piles of broken tile. Either by it being broken in trying to cut. Or not being the right size. Remember how I told you this tile cutter is for basic cuts only. This is not a basic cut problem. There was tears, frustration, a adult throwing a tantrum is never a good thing. I had some ugly moments, swore off bathroom redo’s and tiling forever. And got it done. I am a pro now. That tiny little corner does not look as great as the rest of the wall. Does anyone else notice it but me? No. I cant even hate on it though. We are not tile professionals, and the rest of the wall looks damn good.
Lets get into the nitty, gritty, grout of it shall we? We purchased the already mixed grout, it was worth the extra money. I am talking penny’s in difference. To grout, take your large sponge on the hard rubber side. Put grout on the sponge. Not a lot at a time. It will wall off if too much is put on the wall at a time. Oh, that reminds me. Protect the area under your tile. We put a towel down to catch any falling grout.
Push the grout at a diagonal angle, pushing the grout into the cracks. Remember that is what the goal is. Get rough. Take out your aggression from the stupid one corner of the wall that is sloping. It is going to look messy and ugly. You will question the color, your grouting skills. But, this is not the finished look. So keep at it, have faith, keep calm and grout on! That is the catch phrase right? I need to patent that and sell it. I will get on it.
Once you have the grout all up in the cracks, use the soft sponge side. Get it damp, not dripping otherwise it will take the grout off of the wall. Just a little wet. Then wipe the wall. We initially wiped in a circular motion. It got rid of the excess grout. But there was still a messy grout line. I wanted this as clean and perfect as possible.

how to grout tile

So I started wiping from side to side, rubbing deeper and harder. It seemed to wipe a lot more of the excess grout off, making the lines less and less messy.


how to tile a wall

The picture above is the “finished” grout line. We got rid of the excess. It was somewhat done. But I was not quite happy with it, it seemed too sloppy. Dale said “lets make it neater tomorrow, it is late. It takes at least 24 hours for it to set.” I was not so sure, but he always has a lot of information.  So I trusted him. We literally dropped into bed with dreams of clean and neat grout lines. And then we woke up!
this is the mess from the grout dropping.
This is what we woke up to. Hardened, caked on grout that did not want to come off. AT ALL! It took us one whole day, and part of the next morning to scrub one tile at a time. How did we do that you ask? Using a very wet rag, flooding the tile, and then taking our tiny, achy fingers and getting in the cracks to scrub out the excess tile. It was long, painful, felt impossible, and all things wrong. I may or may not have wanted to tell Dale “YOU WERE WRONG!!!!” But I was too exhausted to do anything but scrub grout. We had still numb fingers two days later. my pointer nail has a bruise on it and is now growing with a weird arch in it. So please, take note. Wipe all of the grout away right away. Straighten and clean the grout lines right away. Do not wait until the next day. It will be a much smoother job, and less painful.


However, all of that pain was worth it, the picture on the left is what the grout line was before. And the one on the right is the scrubbed, nail bleeding, grout lines. I still think it was worth it, but wish we had just stayed up and done it all the night before. If I teach you nothing else ever, use this advice, your fingers will thank me.


Once the tile was up and ready it was time to attach the mirror to the tile. How do we do this? Dale and I scratched our heads for a while. Then we thought of those command strip commercials that take forever to get done. The people are so dramatic with their problems. All solved by using a hook. But they work because when we were in a time of need those command strips popped into our heads. We used these two, they can each handle 8 pounds.


Marking where the hooks are on the back of the mirror onto the tile.


Take off the back adhesive.
Push and hold onto the spot marked for about 10 seconds.
And hang the mirror. Pose for a selfie, it is still considered a selfie if there is two people in it? A twofer? The nice thing about these command strips is that if we got the mark wrong for the clips, we pull it off and re-position it. Luckily we got it right on the first try.


I added on the bottom of the mirror little Velcro adhesives that came with the hooks. To secure the bottom of the mirror from moving around.


You can’t see the command strips or hooks at all. It is just about flush with the wall.


And it is done! The tile is up and lovely. I am so happy I went with the dark grout, and did the tile from floor to ceiling, also that I went with the strip of detailing of different colored tile. That was a last minute addition to this not thought out project. But it all worked and came together.
marble inlay tile ideas and tutorial

how to lay subway tile like a pro

Yes, our wall has bubbles on it. It feels like sand paper and is throughout our whole house. It is a finish to the walls and horrible. But not worth it to scrape it all off. We deal.

subway tile with dark gray grout line



DIY bathroom tile details
I am loving how the tile brightens up this space so much! There is nothing I can do about the space or the lack of natural light. But, this tile on the whole wall by the mirror makes the bathroom feel bigger. It also feels more complete and the nook where the sink is feels more thought out. This tile up, ugly away! How to tile a bathroom  is a success! Even with my mistake in waiting to wipe the grout off, we got it done!
how to update builders grade bathroom
I feel like we learned some lessons with this tile up, ugly away! How to tile a bathroom situation; don’t wait to get rid of excess grout. But, I am not turned off of tiling, contrary to what I thought in the middle of our painful fiasco. It turned out better then I was thinking. With the grout I was concerned if it did not look perfect the dark grout would make it very obvious. I also worried on where to situate the varied colored detail. I put them over the third row of the subway tile. It was perfect to still be seen with the mirror. I am taking little steps in trying different things, and so far am happy with the results. I am sure I will take it too far with one project. But for now, this bathroom tiling was right on the mark.
DIY bathroom tile tutorial

Have you had any project mishaps? Share you lessons learned.





  1. This looks amazing! I am in the same stage. While picking paint colors I noticed the gray tones I was leaning towards clashed with the existing tile… and that is how it starts! laura

  2. Nice work. I like the contrast of the dark grout against the white subway tiles. This seems like quite a project! As far as project mishaps, one of the earliest lessons we learned was to not get over ourselves with major changes to the home. Our kitchen and bathrooms were completely gutted since moving in. We left it to the pros to execute the changes while we planned and chose all the finishing touches. Good luck on your final product! 🙂

    • Thank you! I am in love with the way it turned out. But it ballooned in ways I never saw happening. I think it was easier to do it this way, I never spent time dreading the bathroom redo. It just happened. That is good advice to leave some projects to the pros. Where were you a few weeks ago? 🙂

  3. Great bathroom redo! We did the same thing when we redid our batheroom…went to bed and figured we would clean up the tiles in the morning! I still have grout in odd places.

  4. This looks so amazing! Pinned. Thank you for being a part of our party. I hope to see you tonight at 7 pm. We love partying with you! http://loulougirls.blogspot.com/
    Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  5. Good job on your tiling! It looks great and I love what you picked out.

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